Thursday, December 28, 2006

what day is it?

Last few weeks have been a whirlwind--some good, some very hard. I'm going to just pour it all out and then move on. December was already packed, trying to prepare for next year at church, then had a death in the church (a very sweet 89-year-old woman) and a funeral.

Last week Jamie's best friend back home in Washington died of a heart attack. Kimmi was 36, wife and mother of a 3-year-old son. Jamie was devastated. We were fortunate and got a great deal on Priceline to go home for the funeral. It was a hard week, but good. Good to be with Jamie's family, good to help out with Kimmi's family and friends. I spoke at the funeral; just tried to offer some encouragement and comfort. Jamie's dad shared (he was a second dad to Kimmi) and did a beautiful job. Several others shared, including Jamie. She did great.

It has been hard watching Jamie hurt so much and not be able to do much about it. She has been amazing through all this. Brady did great traveling, but while in Washington Jamie got a cold, then passed it on to Brady and me. I'm still feeling pretty weak. I'm a big baby when sick--feel like I can't do much of anything.

We flew home on Christmas day; been tired and sick since. But it is good to be home, and all together (Ashley was at her father's for Christmas). Mom and Jerry came over last night; we ate dinner and opened presents. Today I try to get some work done.

I need to pause and be thankful; there has been a lot of good in the midst of a tough time--I'm amazed at how good Brady was on both flights--never cried, slept well, played, great mood. Everyone around us on the plane fell in love with him...very thankful for Chad and Linde, Jamie's sister and brother-in-law. We stayed with them in Washington. They are wonderful, generous, serving, fun to be with. Hate that they are so far away!...Thankful for Lisa, who took care of everything at church while I was gone...Thankful for a new year, new opportunities for our church to grow and connect with people and continue to make a difference!

Friday, December 22, 2006

blog about Convergence

My friend Tom posted about Convergence on his blog. Great to hear some perspectives about what we're doing. Thanks for the encouragement, Tom!

Had Kimmi's funeral today; it was really cool. Not a traditional funeral, more a time to celebrate, tell stories, connect with friends old and new.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

too much death

We're in Washington on an unexpected Christmas trip. Jamie's best friend Kimmi died of a heart attack Monday; we flew out here for the funeral and to be with Jamie's family and friends. To top it off, Jamie and I are both fighting colds. I'm going to lead the funeral service tomorrow. Should be a good service, very casual and conversational. Rick, Kimmi's husband, wants it to honor and celebrate Kimmi's life.

I knew Kimmi a little; but she and Jamie had been best friends since childhood. Jamie is devastated. I've never seen her hurt so much, yet she is still so strong--caring for her family, her friends, helping however she can. I am so blessed to have such a wonderful wife.

I'm going to be honest--I'm sick of death. I'm tired of funerals. And deaths like these--far too early (Kimmi was 36, a wife and mother of a 3 1/2 year old son)--really are deflating. There's nothing to say, no answer to why. Nothing to do except cling to those we love and try to get through the grief together. I know God is here in the midst of this, but it takes more work to see it. Part of my role tomorrow will be to help others try to see that He is here, and cares...I know it, but don't feel it much now. I need some time to just be with Him, and let Him comfort and love me.

One of the bright points has been Brady. He was amazing on the trip out here; never fussed or cried on the plane. He is such a blessing. We are missing Ashley like crazy; she is at her father's for Christmas.

It has been good to see family out here--Jamie's mom, dad and step-mom, sister Linde and her husband Chad. In the midst of grief I am so happy to be with all of them for a few days. If you're a praying person, please pray for Rick and Gabe, for Jamie's and my health, and for good time with family. Thanks!

Friday, December 08, 2006

worn out

I am totally exhausted. We had a funeral today; for Johnnie, a wonderful lady who had been part of our church for over 50 years. It was a great service; easy to honor someone like Johnnie. I'm so glad for the few months I got to know her.

But funerals wear me out. Watching her die and spending time with her family after brought back a lot of emotion about the deaths in my family. Over the years I've lost a great-grandmother, a grandmother, a grandfather, and my father. We've lost two church members in last two months, so I've spent a lot of time in the hospital, and done two funerals. We'll probably have more in the not-too-distant-future.

But these are great opportunities to care for people, to help them through tough times. Also challenges me to deal with my own questions and thoughts about life and death. Thinking more about that lately, realizing I'm probably around the midpoint of my life. Strange to think I've probably got more years behind me than ahead of me. Challenges me to make the most of my time; something I'm not really good at.

About 3/4 through Stephen King's newest, Lisey's Story. Some of the best writing he's done in years; excellent so far.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

when will I learn?

Jamie and I have had a rough time lately. She's been kind of grumpy/moody; I've been pretty sensitive, and easily upset. We both get frustrated, feeling like the other is being selfish and not caring about our needs. I'm stressed about church, all that needs to be done, feeling heavy, having spent a lot of time in the hospital lately watching one of our elderly members die (I expect her to go tonight or tomorrow). Jamie is dealing with major life change; going from working in a rewarding job to staying home full-time and homeschooling. (She loves being with the kids; isn't so crazy about housework...)

Tonight we had date night; a nice dinner at a Christmas party. We had a great talk on the drive, and were both able to move beyond our selfishness to try and understand how the other felt.

We do this every few months. Stuff builds up for a while, then we finally talk and clear the air and move back toward each other. I hate the frustration that leads up to it, but I guess it leads us to communicate better and helps us be a little more selfless. I love my wife very much; and now I'm going to bed, where she already is!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

stress and joy

I find myself procrastinating and not blogging because I don’t feel I have a lot to say. So I’m going to try some stream of consciousness blogging. It always helped in high school when I had to journal and didn’t know what to say.

I realize I am stressed a lot these days. Co-pastoring a church is part of it; and not just a church, but a restart—not really a church plant, but not just leading an established church. We’re really creating something new in the midst of something old (for want of a better word.)

Actually, church is going really well; we’re making great progress. Should have website and signs up next week. Our friend Jay has done a great job with the logo; I’ll get it up here soon. We are working on a series for Advent; I think it will be really good. Please come join us sometime in December!

One of our older ladies, Johnnie, is in the hospital. I've been spending a lot of time visiting her. She is nearing the end of her life; I'm grateful that we've had some good time together over the last couple months. But it's hard to be in the hospital and watch her body and mind wear down.

I guess part of my stress is family—not that my family causes me stress—I love my wife and kids so much. But (as my blog title says) I still struggle to feel like an adult. I watch my 6-month-old son grow every day, and my 11-year-old daughter become less of a little girl and more a young lady—and it scares me. These two little people are dependent on me to train them, teach them, guide them, and not screw up too badly in all that!

My sermon this week was on faith, and risk, dreaming dreams so big that they can only be fulfilled by God. I guess I should take my own advice when it comes to parenting. I can’t be a great Dad on my own. I can if I trust in and depend on God. I need to do a better job of that.

One of my stress releases (although my competitive nature causes it to be a source of stress sometimes) is fantasy football. I’m tied for first in my league, in good position to make the playoffs. So I’ve got that going for me.

My competitive nature almost got me in trouble last night. I was at the George Mason basketball game with my buddies John, Ken, and Andy. They did a giveaway where they dropped these paper helicopters of coupons from the rafters. I almost fell over an older guy in front of me reaching for one. Ken grabbed me to keep me from falling. After I thought about it I realized how ridiculous that I’m willing to risk injury to me and others for prize—when I don’t know even know what it is!

The game was great; GMU won big over Florida International. Going to the games with the guys is my big stress release. We’ve had season tickets for years; it’s not just the games (although they’re great, especially our Final Four run last season!), but the tailgating and grilling brats, post-game beers, and the highlight of the year--going to Richmond for the conference tournament. Those weekends are legendary (literally; the stories are far wilder than the actual events!)

Two weeks ago I took Brady to his first GMU basketball game--on his 6-month birthday (see pic above). He did great! The team wasn't so lucky, lost by six to Wichita State. We're 3-2.

Today was great. I got a lot of work done; and got some great time with Brady while Jamie and Ashley shopped. Brady is learning to make all kinds of noises; the newest is a spitting, motor-like noise with his lips. He’s so intense as he’s doing it; like he’s concentrating on this new discovery. Then I do it in imitation, he laughs and laughs. That laugh is truly the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard.

And the Redskins won Sunday; which is always great. So when I look back at this; even though life is stressful, it is also really, really good. I have a great family, awesome friends, and I’m building some great relationships in the context of this new community of faith, we call Convergence.

Monday, November 13, 2006

how much do I really care?

I was in a conversation with a friend, also a minister, and we were discussing the theology of a colleague. I mentioned that this colleague might lean toward universalism in her theology. My friend replied, "I hope she's right." My first reaction was shock, how could he think this way! I'm not too conservative, these days I lean toward the left side of moderate, but I certainly don't subscribe to universalism! I'm not that radical!

He went on to say, "I wouldn't bank my salvation on it, but shouldn't we all hope that she's right?" After thinking about it, I realized he was right. If I truly care about people, don't I want them to spend eternity in heaven? If I base my love for them on their willingness to believe what I believe; that's not very loving.

My faith is in Jesus. I believe that what He says in the Bible is true, that a relationship with Him is the way to truly know God; and that unfortunately, not everyone chooses to follow Him, and therefore won't be with Him forever. While that's what I believe, based on my understanding of Jesus; shouldn't I hope that there is more, that eventually everyone will be with Him, that no one will be left out?

I imagine some of my friends will say, "No, you should hope that all choose to follow Jesus." And I do. But what of those who don't choose to follow Him in this life? Should I really want them to be separated from God, or should I want God to find a way to keep them with Him? Can there be a difference between what I believe and what I want? Just because I don't believe in universalism doesn't mean I can't hope for it. If I love all people, than I should want all people to be saved. Peter said that "God does not want anyone to perish." I don't either.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Procastination, family, Brian McLaren

Haven't posted in almost three weeks; the days go by too fast! My procrastination almost got me into trouble last week. I looked at my calendar on Thursday and realized Friday was Jamie's birthday. I stopped at Carrabba's after work (Jamie's favorite restaurant) and got a gift card, then went to CVS and got a bunch of stuff for a gift bag (including a prepared gift bag). All that tells me I need to slow down!

Saturday we held the annual meeting for NorthStar, our local network of Baptist churches, and one of my employers. (I work part-time for the church, and part-time for the network.)

Brian McLaren was the guest speaker; he gave a fantastic message about worship. I have met Brian several times over the years, heard him speak, read many of his books, and know many people who are close to him. I have seen the fruit of his ministry in so many ways. I see his love for Jesus and for people. I have been blessed by him. So it breaks my heart to see the vicious criticism directed toward him, especially by several "watchdog" organizations that label him a heretic.

I don't agree with Brian on everything--but I probably don't agree with anyone on everything. Yet much of what he says resonates with the questions and wonderings I've had about God and life, especially as I move toward middle age. I am so grateful for the ways Brian challenges me to be real and honest with God and myself as I seek to know Him better and live in His ways.

Finally, a Brady update. My 5 1/2 month old son is now sitting up. He is growing like crazy, and developing such a beautiful personality. He has a wonderful smile and a contagious laugh. It is so fun watching him and his sister!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

holy discontent

Last year I heard Bill Hybels give a great talk on vision. He said that there is a prerequisite to getting a vision.

"What happens in a leader is that they have this thing called holy discontent. There's something in their spirit that they're unsettled about, something that really bothers them," explained Hybels. “The discontent forces the leader to act.”

Years ago I worked in a residential treatment facility for children; caring for kids who had been abused, neglected, and abandoned. It was exhausting, heartbreaking, yet rewarding work. I never felt that working with children was my calling, even though I taught middle and high school English for six years and loved it.

But over the last couple years I've had a growing "holy discontent" that Hybels talked about. It has intensified since Brady was born. One day I was holding him, loving him; and it hit me, hard, that there are millions of children, babies, who don't have parents who love them and feed them and care for them.

I've always known this, but it took having a baby of my own for it to really hit me. It hurts me to hear Brady cry; and there is no greater joy than picking him up and seeing him smile as I love on him. It breaks my heart to think of all the babies, as beautiful and precious as my Brady, who cry and cry with no one to pick them up and comfort them. That thought brings tears to my eyes.

I thought my calling was to pastor, mostly with people like me. But I'm afraid that God is growing this discontent about children in me, and that eventually it's going to be too strong to ignore, and then I'm going to have to do something about it. I'm praying--curiously, reluctantly...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Life and death

What looked like a not-too-busy week is getting crazy. Fred, one of the long-time members at church died yesterday. He had been in the hospital for a week and a half. We will have the funeral at church Friday.

Saturday I have a wedding with some friends at my old church. They're getting married in a park, next to a creek; should be fun!

Saturday night is Andy's annual Oktoburkefest (he lives in Burke, hence the goofy spelling). Andy brags that it is Burke's largest Oktoberfest celebration. Should be fun!

Sunday is church. Lisa will be gone so I am speaking.

I've spent a lot of time at Alexandria Hospital the last few weeks. Mom was there having surgery and recovering, the daughter of a church member was there, then Fred, the gentleman who died was in.

Watching Fred reminded me so much of when Dad died, and the hours I spent next to his bed, watching his body shut down, feeling so helpless.

Twice last week I left Fred feeling completely drained; empty. I walked through the maze of halls toward the exit, got my parking ticket stamped, then walked out. Both days I came out to see young couples leaving the hospital with new babies. I felt swirling emotions--sadness about the death of loved ones, mixed with the joy of new life. It was strange to feel such joy for total strangers, but I felt connected to them. I wanted to go up to them and say, "Isn't it great!" (It was only 5 months ago that we brought Brady home from the hospital, and I can hardly remember or imagine life without him!)

Life and death. An old man dying behind me and new life coming out into the world in front of me. Each gives more meaning to the other. Life is more precious because of its shortness. At 41 I realize my life is probably more than half over. That is scary, but also challenges me to make the most of each day. To love my family. To try to accomplish something for God. To enjoy all the blessings I have.

And as scary as death seems, it is not meaningless. It is a part of life. The focus of the people who knew Fred is not on his death, but his life. All he did. The legacy he left, the stories, the history. And on the life he now lives.

I love my life. My family. And I trust there are even better things to come, as my kids grow, as we have more kids (exciting and scary!).

I realize this post is all about me...God is also really dealing with me on some other things, challenging things, outside myself. More about that soon...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A good Sunday

Overall, a pretty good day. Church was great; I love having April and Nuc there to play music; we are so blessed! Worship was good, our friend Elise preached about unity and did a great job. We had two visiting couples--one that came on purpose; and one that was lost and just came to the first church they found! It was a reminder to me that God will bring people to us, and us to people.

I was impressed with the dedication of our friend Jay. Jay plays in a band, Middle Distance Runner, and was out till after 3 am; yet he got up and made it to church! He is always there; even though he rarely gets much sleep on Saturdays. I'm grateful for guys like Jay!

Not such a great sports day--the Redskins lost to the Giants. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was leading the race on the last lap, and got wrecked. I was mad. But I won fantasy football, so that helped.

Great time with family tonight. We watched an episode of Little House on the Prairie. I admit it was one of my favorites as a kid. It's great watching it with Ashley, seeing her love something I loved. I'm so blessed by my kids!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Things are looking up!

This past Sunday we had our Commitment Sunday--announcing the name change, beginning the next phase of our re-start. We are now Convergence: A Creative Community of Faith at Fair-Park Baptist Church. What a mouthful! You can just say Convergence.

Our focus for the next six months is building relationships with our existing community, preparing to begin outreach and publicity in April.

Sunday was the most enjoyable and meaningful worship I've had in a while. It was the first time in months I didn't feel heavy because of the pessimism of a few folks. I focused on what God is doing, and on the people who are excited and supportive of where we are going (and most people are). Even those who aren't happy didn't express it with grumbling and dirty looks as they have in the past.

Lisa and I spent the last couple weeks visiting with many of the older folks in the church; all the visits were wonderful, and went a long way toward helping us all get on the same page.

Family life is good--the highlight of my day is greeting Brady when he wakes up. I walk into his room, he looks around, and when he sees me his whole face lights up in a big smile. I love my daughter just as much, but when I greet her in the morning she makes mean faces and grumbles, "Five more minutes."

I am still overwhelmed with stuff to do--I need to close here and make about a dozen phone calls--but I am so grateful for my family, and my church, and my friends. Even though this is an extremely stressful time, God continues to bless me every day, in ways big and small.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pouring it out

Haven't written in a while; last few weeks really busy, exhausting, difficult, exciting, draining...I'm not even going to try to organize, just stream of consciousness venting. Here goes...

One of hardest experiences ever today--emotionally--taking Brady for his 4 month check-up, where he got 4 shots. Nothing breaks your heart like holding your baby while the nurse sticks him with needles. His cries of pain stabbed my heart more deeply than anything ever has. Fortunately he was over it quickly...I sang to him, somehow that helped.

A little background--I am tone deaf; can't carry a tune at all. My singing is horrible; no exaggeration. Yet when I sing to Brady he always smiles. I even wrote a song for him (very simple); in his early days--no way to convey the tune (who are we kidding, with me there is no real tune!). He smiles every time I sing it to him.

It goes like this:

See the sun up in the sky
It shines for you, Brady Nelson Cullop

Hear the birds up in the trees
They sing for you, Brady Nelson Cullop

There are variations depending on the time and place...

Hear the rain up on the roof
It falls for you, Brady Nelson Cullop

...stars instead of sun at night, stuff like that. I made up a verse one time about Jamie breastfeeding Brady, Ashley laughed hysterically. Better not repeat that one here.

He's been sleeping most of the afternoon; shots are traumatic and exhausting, I guess.

Church is up and down. The things we are doing in worship, the responses of newer people, friends visiting, etc. are tremendous; very positive.

A few of the older folks don't like any of it, complain to us, complain to each other, complain to the trustees.

We're setting up individual meetings with the older folks over next two weeks to talk, listen, try to understand each other...

I have about 5 projects for NorthStar (my association job) I'm trying to keep up with (I'm really way behind), about 150 emails to get to, and lots of work for church--message for Sunday, budget prep stuff, people to meet with, phone calls....This is by far the most stress I've ever felt. I really want to just run away and hide. If it weren't for my family I just might.

My favorite Psalm is 119. Here are verses 14-16 from The Message:

"If you'll hold on to me for dear life," says God,
"I'll get you out of trouble.
I'll give you the best of care
if you'll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and I'll answer, be at your side in bad times;
I'll rescue you, then throw you a party.
I'll give you a long life,
give you a long drink of salvation!"

I am really trying to hold onto God. I don't always sense His presence, but I know He's there, and sometimes that has to be enough...remembering the times He has cared for me, and looking forward to seeing how He takes care of me through the current stressful time.

It doesn't help that it's football season and the Redskins look horrible. I am such a huge fan; have been since I was a kid. I know it's just a game, but the Skins do affect my mood. Really need a win at Houston this week.

My kids are often what keep me going. They both have the most beautiful smiles. The other day I met Jamie somewhere; opened the back door of her car to see Brady. He was facing the other way; when I said hello to him, and he heard my voice, he broke into the biggest smile, even before he saw me. I am listening for God; I want to know that same joy as I hear my Father's voice. I have experienced it before; there are times like now when I think the key is for me to shut up and listen for it. So I'll close here and go listen.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Life is crazy

My life has always been crazy; at least since I hit puberty. I keep thinking one day it will slow down; I should know better, but I don't want to give up the dream...

Had a rough patch today--a phone conversation with one of the senior members of the church. Don't want to go into detail, but dealing with a situation that involved miscommunication, dishonesty, false accusations; stuff that just wears me out. I was really angry. I have struggled more with anger the last 2 months than I had in years; all connected with the church, trying to deal with the few folks who asked for a re-start but now fight it every step of the way. Most of the people are really great, very supportive. It's only a couple who are opposed and very loud who bring me down.

But crazy isn't all bad. I wish I weren't so busy, but I am having fun. Most of the time. My kids are such a great source of joy. We started home-schooling with Ashley (10) last week; she is so bright and alive and has a great sense of humor. The highlight today was singing praise songs with her before we started class. (I can't carry a tune, but she doesn't care, we have so much fun singing together!)

Brady (almost 4 months) still brings tears to my eyes every time he smiles at me. He is doing more and more, laughing, making more noises (the latest is a kind of growl that Jamie says is his bear imitation).

Jamie has two more weeks at work, then will be home full-time--Yay! We had fun this weekend shopping at Ikea.

I realize I talk a lot about what's happening, but don't get too deep or open here. Guess I'm still cautious to put myself out there. My friend April is so good at that--her blogs inspire me.

I enjoy life very much, but feel overwhelmed. There is so much to do. I'm sitting in my home office which needs to be cleaned and organized; but that 's a job that will take hours. I am months behind in organizing receipts and check requests for work. I have over 100 emails in my box to answer; some I know I am too late to help or get or give what is needed.

Brady is waking up from a nap so I need to go get him. I need about 5 more hours in a day. I need to be better organized. I need to watch less TV. I need to slow down and just be with God, enjoy His presence, let Him love me.

Thursday, August 31, 2006


I just finished watching the greatest tennis match I've ever seen. Andre Agassi (36), playing in his final US Open, beat Marcos Baghdatis (21) in a 5 set match that lasted almost 4 hours. Agassi is probably not as good physically, but he refused to lose. His will and determination carried him through...

I want to develop the same determination in my life--as a husband, a father, a friend, a be the absolute best I can be at all I do. I want to be able to look back and say I gave everything I had in loving people and sharing God's love with them, in both my words and actions. Each night I look back over my day, sometimes feeling like I accomplished a lot; other times realizing I wasted time and opportunity, watching TV and being lazy...

I probably shouldn't write at 1 am, I'm too tired to think of anything profound. Looking forward to going camping this weekend; Brady's first camping trip! It's supposed to rain a lot.

Things are moving along at church. Lisa and I are almost finished with some documents and plans that will help us work through a lot during the next month; then things should begin to take off.

Monday, August 28, 2006

A great Sunday

I need to write more often. I think I'm still a little nervous about putting stuff out there for anyone to read (not that anyone's really reading this; the only comment I got on a recent post was from someone I don't know who was sharing his poetry, and I think trying to get some business). I know writing about what's happening at church will be helpful, at least for us!

Yesterday was a great day at church. We had a good group in the morning; and worship was fantastic. My partner Lisa preached the best sermon I've heard in a long time, about God's people being imaginative. I wish we were recording our services; hopefully soon. Our friends April and Nuc led music and did great as always. We are so blessed to have them as part of our church family!

Josh, who had been leading music for us, resigned yesterday. Josh was with the church when we came on board. He's a great kid; but his ideas and desires for worship are different from ours, and he recognized that he would be happier somewhere else. I hope he will stay connected in some ways; he is a great photographer and has been really helpful.

Last night we had dinner and communion, followed by some music and discussion with Harp 46. Another awesome experience. It was so powerful sitting around the table (12 of us) taking communion and sharing a great meal and fellowship. The music was amazing!

Lisa and I are putting the finishing touches on some documents that will help clarify who we are and where we are going--mission and vision statements, core values, beliefs, and comittments, and a plan for our first year. Then we take all this to the people of the church and ask people to get on board as we move forward. I know the biggest challenge for some will be changing the name of the church (or adding on to it). We're narrowing down and asking for some divine direction on that decision!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Learning from my son

This has been an exhausting week, mostly in the emotional/spiritual sense. Dealing with a lot of church stuff that is really draining. I think we're doing ok; moving forward, working hard to do what we believe God wants us to.

The joy in the midst of this is my son Brady. Jamie is working full time; wrapping things up before she quits her job. Ashley is visiting her father; so I'm home with Brady during the days. He can wear me out; and when he naps I'm ready for a break. But 45 minutes later I'm standing at his crib, missing him and ready for him to wake up. I am so filled with love for him. He is "talking," making lots of beautiful sounds. His smile melts my heart. He is asleep now and I long for him.

If this is the kind of love God has for me; I never really got that before now. Even though life is crazy, and I'm about 150 emails behind, and work is piling up; I am so grateful for my family, my ministry, my co-pastor (who has picked up all of my slack while I'm playing Mr. Mom), my friends, and most of all my God.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A long day

Today was a rough day. After church we had a listening session with the folks at church (mostly the older folks). It didn't go well. Most people were polite, but 3 or 4 were very harsh in their complaints. One was rude and sarcistic toward me, several times. He would throw out accusations and complaints, then when I tried to respond, he shook his head and laughed. After three times, I'd had enough, and said, "I'm going to ask you to stop laughing while I speak or please leave the room." He left. We tried to get the meeting back on track, prayed together, and left.

I felt lousy. Angry at being so disrespected. Disappointed in myself for losing my cool. All this on the heels of a great message about unity from one of our trustees.

The day did get better. Got some good feedback from a couple friends. Jamie was very supportive, as were my co-pastor and her husband. My friend Chris came over and had dinner with us; we watched some of the Redskins game.

So even in the midst of a messy day, I still see God. I still sense His love. I ask Him to help us make progress through this situation. I hope tomorrow's a good day!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Thoughts on vision of our church

Here is our purpose statement (still a work in progress):

We strive to live out the mission of Jesus as an imaginative people engaging in whole-life worship and authentic community.

The following comes from the message I shared this past Sunday:

Whose church is Fair-Park? We often live as though the church is ours—those of us who are followers of Jesus and members of the church. But that’s not right. The church, in a universal sense, and locally, is God’s, and God’s alone.

Why are we here? We are not here to get fed spiritually. We’re not here to catch up with friends and hear the latest gossip. We’re not here to find a comfortable place to gather. We’re not here to make ourselves feel better. We’re here to worship God. We’re here to turn our focus from ourselves to Him. We’re here to humble ourselves before Him and ask Him to shape us, grow us, fill us, and use us.

For whom does Fair-Park exist? It doesn’t exist for me, or the people I like, or the community that gathers here each week. The church exists for people who don’t know Jesus. We come to worship God, and know him better, but also to be equipped so we can help others know Him as well.

Based on the purpose and vision we have received from God, we exist for the art community in DC area. There are thousands of artists out there—musicians, painters, sculptors, writers, actors, directors, photographers, designers—many who know Jesus, yet aren’t plugged into church, because churches aren’t equipped to help them to use their gifts in worshipping and connecting with God.

There are millions of artists in our area who don’t know Jesus; artists who have never had someone enter into their life, their world, and share the love of Jesus with them. We as a church exist for those people. God has called us to be the church that will connect with artists; and become a creative, vibrant, exciting place to connect with God and people.

Not all of us consider ourselves artists. But each of us has the potential for incredible imagination and creativity. We want to be a church that helps people discover how to use their God-given creativity to worship Him and to be a blessing to people.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Discussions and debates on blogs

I've been sucked in to reading and responding on Steve Camp's blog. I think Steve is an interesting guy. I respect his music, but was kind of surprised when I found his blog and read his views. I read a post he wrote asking, "Why hasn't anyone within the EC ecumenical movement... publicly called for the church discipline (Matt. 18:15-20) of Brian McLaren for his aberrant and heretical theological error?"

I had to respond. Well, I didn't have to, but I was so bugged I did. I didn't get far; Steve is not too open to others' perspectives. I went back tonight and posted again. You can read the whole thing at

Here is an excerpt from my post:

You accused me of not thinking. I have thought more in the last 5 years, as I have searched and questioned and wrestled with Scripture, and faith has become more real and honest and evident in my life; then in the previous 20 years, when I simply believed what I was told to believe.

You are making blanket statements not about individuals, but anyone you consider part of the group you don’t like. I’m really surprised at your sarcasm and prejudice, especially when you implore others to use polite and gentlemanly behavior.

You do a great job of quoting verses to fit your arguments. I’m sure you will have a scathing response to me, filled with verses to refute what I’m saying. I won't go there with you. It's a waste of time, and I don't think it's a productive use of Scripture. I don't think it's how God wants us to use Scripture.

I love Jesus. I love the Bible. You and I see the BIble differently. No two people are going to see everything about it in exactly the same way. While I agree that Scripture is God's Word; any interpretation or understanding you or I have of Scripture is potentially fallible. I believe we are to do the best we can with it, constantly asking God to help us, not condemn and ridicule people because we believe our understanding is right and theirs is wrong.

I believe the Bible is God’s primary way of communicating His love and plan for His people; not a weapon to beat people into submission to our own views. It is a living and vibrant book, full of wisdom and story and mystery, not a set of rules with which to judge people and whip them into line.

I believe the Word, and the Holy Spirt, are powerful enough to point people to Christ. God doesn't need us to make sure everyone else is interpreting and understanding everything exaclty as we think they should.

We should teach, encourage, exhort, challenge; but in a spirit of love and humility, not condemnation.

And again, it’s one thing to disagree, another to accuse one of heresy.

How is this an invitation to discuss? You have your mind made up; anyone who shares a different perspective is ridiculed. You don’t want to discuss, but debate.

I really would like to discuss. I’m not bailing on discussion, as you accused ECers of doing on an earlier blog. I’m willing to talk, and listen. True dialogue means listening with respect; not just pushing one’s views and slamming others'. While I don’t agree with you on a lot; it is clear you have studied Scripture, and I think there is a lot I could learn from you, and in dialogue with you.

I’d really like to hear your views on this N.T. Wright lecture about authority:

I know what kind of response I'll get there; I'm curious to see if anyone else has some feedback.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Great Idea if you have kids

My friend Ed gave me a great idea that I have put into action. I bought two note-takers Bibles (wide margins, lines at bottom)--one for each of my kids, and I use one in my quiet time/reading. As I read and pray, I write notes in the Bible--thoughts on certain passages, hopes, dreams, prayers, advice, challenges, encouragement, stories, memories...When they are older I'll give the Bibles to them. The idea is to give them God's word, filled not with commentary and study helps, but with words of love (and hopefully some wisdom) from their dad.

My father died young (56). It would have been so cool to have something like this, where he shared his life and faith with me. If you have kids, I highly recommend it. Even if you don't; it wouldn't be a bad idea to start and get a jump on the future!

On another note, tomorrow we have an important meeting with the trustees of the church. We'll present some of our plans and proposals. If things go well, we should be able to really get moving on some things next week.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Welcome to my life

Here goes my first post. I've journaled for 25 years; but never in public. Scary. Thanks to my friend Josh for the idea. I'll start with something simple; the title of my blog. It describes how I often feel. Shocked that I am in my 40's (a decade that not long ago seemed old!), yet I still feel like a teenager much of the time (and my wife would say I often act like one!). I hope I'm more young-at-heart than immature!

My life changed drastically 11 weeks ago with the birth of my son Brady. (I have a 10-year-old daughter, Ashley; but she was 7 when I got her, and already well-trained!)

My capacity for love has grown incredibly. I am so filled with love for my two children, and can't fathom that the love God has for me is infinitely greater than that. Wow. I am so grateful! I highly recommend parenthood!